Kirk, Lipinski, Hultgren Call for Extension of Surface Transportation Legislation
Chicago, IL – In a show of bipartisan, bi-cameral unity United States Senator Mark Kirk, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3), and Congressman Randy Hultgren (IL-14) joined representatives from the Illinois Road Builders Association, Operating Engineers Local 150 and other transportation advocates in calling for Congress to extend the expiring Surface Transportation Act. This legislation authorizes federal transportation projects across the nation, and allows the collection of revenues that fund infrastructure improvements. It was introduced in the House late Friday that would extend aviation programs through January and highway and transit programs through March. If Congress does not adopt this act by September 30th, federal reimbursement of highway and transit projects will stop, with $100 million in funding lost each day.
“Congress should quickly approve this extension legislation to avoid a shutdown of the Highway Trust Fund,” said Kirk. “We also support a longer-term solution by lifting federal barriers that could mobilize up to $100 billion for transportation private-public partnerships.”
“America is in a jobs crisis, and nothing creates jobs quickly and over the long term like investing in transportation,” Rep. Dan Lipinski said. “It’s high time we passed a robust, multi-year transportation reauthorization. The last bill expired two years ago, and it’s simply absurd that Congress and the President haven’t acted. I’m glad to see there’s a transportation component to the President’s jobs plan, but it’s less than 15 percent of the total and that’s simply not enough. We need a reauthorization that enables major projects and increases, not cuts, funding levels. The bipartisan two-year bill recently proposed on the Senate side would be a good start. In the meantime, we need to make sure we avoid a shutdown of transportation programs like the one that disabled the FAA this summer.”
"I'm optimistic that a bipartisan agreement can be reached on a serious, long-term investment in our nation's infrastructure," said US Rep. Randy Hultgren, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. "But until that agreement can be reached, we should extend SAFETEA-LU before it expires which will help to address the high unemployment in the transportation trades putting thousands of Americans back to work."
The House legislation, authored by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), would extend funding for surface transportation programs at Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 levels through March 31, 2011, and aviation programs through January 31, 2011. Congressional leaders reached the deal on Friday, but requires passage by both the House and the Senate.
As part of his efforts to find more private money for importing transportation projects, Senator Kirk today sent a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, encouraging both the immediate extension of the legislation as passage of components of the Lincoln Legacy Infrastructure Development Act (S.1300) in a long-term transportation bill.
The Lincoln Legacy Act, which lifts barriers to private-public partnerships, could mobilize $100 billion in private investment to build new roads, airports, and railroads. Congressmen Hultgren and Lipinski, Illinois members of the House Transportation Committee, are collaborating on companion legislation in the House.
The event took place at the Wacker Drive reconstruction site. In 2005, Congress provided $25 million in federal funding for the project. Should a shutdown occur, $19 million of the unspent funds would be unable to be reimbursed.
Background on the Surface Transportation Act (SAFETEA-LU):
In 2005, Congress passed the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) – a six-year $286-billion transportation bill funding roads and transit projects.
In 2009, SAFETEA-LU expired, and since then Congress passed seven short-term extensions to keep infrastructure improvements moving forward. The current extension expires on September 30th, and with it the federal government’s ability to collect gasoline taxes and reimburse states for projects.
While granting extensions is routine, last month the Federal Aviation Administration was shuttered for several weeks as leaders in the House and Senate fought over language to extend the program. Approximately 4,000 federal employees were furloughed and $300 million was lost in aviation revenue.
But a highway program shutdown would be even more devastating. Should the program lapse, the federal government will lose $100 million a day. Illinois would see a halt in the flow of federal funds and 65,000 Illinois jobs could be at risk according the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Approximately 62 percent of IDOT’s construction program comes from the federal government.